Everyone’s Planet

This phrase keeps circling back into my consciousness weeks, even months after I read it on my friend’s blog. Poor people don’t care about the environment.

I don’t know who should care more about it than poor people, because as our climate changes they will be the most deeply affected.

Last fall I participated, rather tangentially, in a campaign called the Real Food Challenge, which aimed to get college students across the country involved in eating and promoting healthy, sustainable food on campuses. On my campus, a group of students set up a table for a few hours during the mid-day rush hour between the library and the student union and gave away local apples and organic, fair trade chocolate.

I was in charge of giving out chocolate, not a difficult job by any means. But, as I urged one passing student to head over to the apple table for some free samples, we got into a conversation about eating organic. She was a mom, as am I, and she told me she just couldn’t afford to buy organic. I started telling her about the many benefits of organic food, and how, in the long run, it is actually cost effective to eat organic, when you think of long-term health and environmental benefits—especially if the food is also locally grown.

In this society that does little to create a safety net for the less privileged, organic and real food provides a little bit of string to help bind this net. The healthier one eats, technically speaking, the healthier one will be. You are what you eat, as it goes. And, what we eat as a whole contributes to the health of our planet, which we all share.

As climate change accellerates, and we start to feel its effects, those of us who have less will be more compromised. Those of us in relatively wealthy situations will be able to continue to afford shelter, food, medical attention, and whatever else any impending crisis will force us to face.

I recall one of the most simple ways to reduce energy use, and therefore help out the environment, is to unplug your cell phone charger when it is not in use. It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic status is to be able to complete this simple task.

I realize that there are more pressing issues than the environment on many people’s minds—especially when they are working several jobs and concerned about how to pay their bills. But it is important to remember that there could be no bills to pay at all if climate change has as devastating an effect as many scientists are warning it will. Keeping the big picture in mind while continuing to think about the smaller things in life can help ease the effects of climate change.

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Back in Action

After a long hiatus, I have returned to the blogosphere. I tried to get back earlier, but the words wouldn’t come. I blame the thesis. I blame academia. I blame long nights of slaving over interpretations of statistical test outputs from SPSS. I blame waiting. I blame waiting again. I hate waiting. But most of all, I blame the lack of creative energy that had been zapped from my soul for the past month as I made the final steps toward completing my master’s degree.

Now it is over. And through it all, I have learned many life lessons—most important, don’t get a Ph.D.

This is not to discredit the friends and family members of mine who are either pursuing or have accomplished that major hurdle, indeed, this is a note to myself to avoid a future in academia. Oy, the bureaucracy, the egos, the drive to publish.

I can say that my post-graduate education has mainly turned me on to the deep issues that plague higher education. I have known about these problems for many years from a distance, but now they have touched me. First and foremost, the expansion of the university system has hurt students.

As Americans, we are told from an early age that we need a college degree to get anywhere in life. But not everyone is cut out for a college education, and they shouldn’t be. Our primary and secondary schools have failed to produce a majority of high school graduates who can be successful college students. This leaves many professors with the duty to remediate these students in basic English and math classes. This puts a strain on the students who may not need remedial classes but need college-level courses but can’t get them because there are too few teachers or too few sections offered. Budget cuts to public universities don’t help this either. Neither does the pressure a tenure-track professor undergoes to publish scholarly research in order to get that golden tenure. Nor does the astronomical jumps in tuition and fees charged each term. These are just a smattering of the many problems that face modern academia.

Bottom line: the students’ education is suffering.

Our education system from beginning to end is in severe crisis, and if this country wants to remain competitive in a global economy there needs to be remediation in the way we look at education. We can not view it as a business venture or a money-making opportunity. Education is the gateway by which we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Education is the way we understand ourselves, our culture and those around us. Education helps us be more human. Education is necessary, and it to be strong and supported from pre-school to the doctoral level. Otherwise, I fear to imagine what our ignorant faces.

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